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Gerrhopilus persephone KRAUS, 2017

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Higher TaxaGerrhopilidae, Typhlopoidea, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common Names 
SynonymGerrhopilus persephone KRAUS 2017 
DistributionPapua New Guinea (Milne Bay Province)

Type locality: forest near Normanby Mining Camp, above Awaiara Bay (10.0592° S, 151.0722° E, 620 m a.s.l.), Normanby Island, D’Entrecasteux Archipelago, Milne Bay Province, Papua New Guinea.  
TypesHolotype: UMMZ 242536, Immature female (field number FK 16708), collected by F. Francisco on 10 September 2013. 
DiagnosisDiagnosis. This species belongs to Gerrhopilus based on the presence of head glands in the centers of the anterior head shields in addition to their anterior margins (McDowell 1974; Wallach 1996b). A small, thin species of Gerrhopilus having the unique combination of head glands evenly and densely dispersed among the anterior head scales but absent from the centers of the ocular and subocular scales and from all supralabials except the third, a rostrate snout with a transverse keel on the ventral margin of the rostral that lies dorsal to the rictus, angle of pre- oral snout in lateral aspect inclined at a 25° angle to the horizontal, distinct pupil in the eye, longitudinal scale rows 26/24/22, mid-dorsal scales between the rostral and tail spine 780, supralabial imbrication pattern T-V, subocular scale one, presubocular scale absent, subcaudal scales 32, and L/W ratio 82. Refer to Table 1 for additional diagnostic qualitative and quantitative features.

Comparisons. Gerrhopilus persephone may be distinguished from all other members of this genus except G. addisoni, G. depressiceps, G. eurydice, and G. mcdowelli in having a transverse keel on the ventral margin of the rostral, which gives the snout a beaked appearance in lateral aspect, and in having a posterior reduction of four longitudinal scale rows from head to vent. From all of these species G. persephone is distinct in its greater number of mid-dorsal scale rows (780 vs. 627 in G. addisoni, 649–664 in G. depressiceps, 601–647 in G. eurydice, and 431– 464 in G. mcdowelli). Gerrhopilus persephone may be further distinguished from G. addisoni, G. depressiceps, and G. eurydice by having 26 scale rows around the body just posterior to the head (vs. 24 in G. addisoni, G. depressiceps, and G. eurydice) and having the angle of the pre-oral snout in lateral aspect being inclined at a 25° angle to the horizontal (vs. horizontal in G. addisoni, G. depressiceps, and G. eurydice) so that the tip of the rostral keel lies dorsal to the rictus (vs. ventral to the rictus in G. addisoni, G. depressiceps, and G. eurydice). Gerrhopilus persephone may be further distinguished from G. mcdowelli by its greater length (254 mm vs. 94–199 in G. mcdowelli), narrower body (total length/mid-body width = 82 in G. persephone vs. 44–53 in G. mcdowelli), glands absent in supralabials, except for a single row along dorsal margin of third supralabial (vs. glands present in all supralabials in G. mcdowelli), greater number of subcaudal scales (32 vs. 17–25 in G. mcdowelli), snout profile rounded in dorsal view (vs. pointed in G. mcdowelli), and rostral keel pointing directly downward (vs. anteroventrally in G. mcdowelli). 
CommentHabitat: The holotype was collected while climbing a tree trunk at night in primary foothill rainforest having a canopy height of ca. 30 m. 
EtymologyThe specific epithet is the name of the Greek goddess―daughter of Zeus and Demeter―who was abducted by Hades, Greek god of the underworld, and forced to reside underground for a portion of each year. It is a proper noun in apposition. 
  • Kraus, Fred 2017. New Species of Blindsnakes (Squamata: Gerrhopilidae) from the offshore islands of Papua New Guinea. Zootaxa 4299 (1): 075–094 - get paper here
  • O’Shea, M. 2018. The Book of Snakes. Ivy Press / Quarto Publishing, London, - get paper here
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